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Healthy Holidays = Happy Holidays!

As we approach both Thanksgiving and Christmas, seeking ways to prioritize health over the next several months may help make your holidays happy and limit your post-holiday regrets.

According to Consumer Reports (, most Americans eat between 3000 and 4500 calories at their Thanksgiving celebrations! Wow. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ( most people should consume between 1,600 and 2,800 calories per day, depending on your age, weight, and gender. Thus, the Thanksgiving meal may be a place to start when thinking about healthy cooking and healthy eating.

A few things to consider:

  • Consider preparing your holiday meal using “slimmed down” versions of traditional dishes, for example:

    • Substitute steamed green beans with added almonds for green bean casserole

    • Substitute roasted sweet potatoes for the brown sugar and marshmallow version!

  • Avoid skipping meals before the big Thanksgiving meal, because if you arrive at the big meal when extremely hungry, you may be more likely to overeat.

  • Choose reasonable portions and know that eating extra calories on a festive day is OK if you go back to a healthful diet afterwards!

  • “Listen to your body” and don’t continue to eat when “full”. Eat until you are satisfied, not “stuffed” (like the turkey!)

While I am not a big fan of “calorie counting” it is important to realize that eating (calories in) and exercise (calories out) need to balance each other like the two sides of a scale:

How about some suggestions for increasing your movement and activity on Thanksgiving Day?

  • Plan some “pre-meal” exercise

  • Take a break between dinner and dessert (who doesn’t love the pumpkin pie?) and shoot some baskets, walk in the woods or at a park walk and enjoy the fall day

  • Play an active game in the evening with the family like hopscotch or “kick the can”, or jumping rope

  • Have a dance off!

After Thanksgiving has passed, the Christmas season comes fast! It is hard to maintain a health-conscious lifestyle during all the hustle and bustle, holiday parties, and family gatherings that surround Christmas. The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study and found that the average holiday weight gain was about 1 lb, and more than half of the people in the study gained just over 2 lbs. For most of us that would be a winning holiday season! An important conclusion from this study was that often, the weight that people gain during the holiday season is not addressed (lost) during the rest of the year, leading to potential long term weight gain, and it is the time spent exercising- or getting SOME physical activity (see suggestions above!) that really matters.

A few suggestions that may assist you in maintaining a healthy holiday season:

  • Visit the people, not the food. Really engage with your acquaintances, family, and friends during the holiday season

  • Don’t skip meals and get too hungry, keep healthy snacks “on the ready” such as nuts, fruit, cheese, cut vegetables

  • Eat slower during large meals, beginning with small portions

  • Bring a healthy dish to a potluck or family get together

  • Avoid excess alcohol and the “festive drinks” and stick with water, seltzer, or unsweetened coffee or tea for most of your beverages

  • Choose your “splurges” wisely, as there are lots of candies, cookies, cakes, and pies (to name a few!) that are special to the Christmas season/may be family traditions that you want to partake in

The Mayo Clinic offers the following six strategies for healthy holidays (

  1. Embrace eating in and save the eating away from home for special occasions, celebrations, parties, etc.

  2. Don’t skip breakfast or other meals, continue to fuel your body on a regular basis

  3. Watch your intake of juices, as they are full of sugar and calorically dense.

  4. Stay active, don’t alter your fitness/activity routine if possible.

  5. Work toward balance between healthy eating, exercise, and sleep. Routine is really helpful.

  6. When in doubt, consult with an expert! Your physician, a registered dietician nutritionist, or other health providers can assist you in working toward a healthy lifestyle.

New Year’s celebrations are just around the corner…..same strategies, different holiday!

Happy end of 2022 and beginning of 2023 from Lowell Community Wellness to YOU!

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